JORDAN - Coming into the 2014 season, the Springfield baseball team had high expectations one year after finishing second in the Section 3A tournament.
With a big chunk of the nucleus back, the Tigers claimed a second-straight Tomahawk Conference crown this past year. But the high point came on Friday when they picked up a pair of wins - a 5-0 win against Red Lake County in the first round of the consolation bracket, then a 3-2 victory against Ely for the consolation title to give them a fifth-place finish in their first state tournament appearance since 1994.
In the first game, the Tigers (23-3) were aided by two staples - pitching and defense - that carried them past the Rebels.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Springfield’s Cooper Scheffler (2) slides safely into home behind Red Lake County catcher Wyatt Casavan as his teammates look on from the dugout during the Tigers’ 5-0 win in the consolation semifinals Friday at the Class A state tournament in Jordan.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
Carter Erickson earned the win and he went the distance, surrendering three hits and four walks. He struck out four and mixed up his pitches well.
While Erickson was sharp on the mound, leadoff hitter Cooper Scheffler was doing his thing at the plate and on the base paths scoring three runs and stealing four bases. He swiped two bases in the top of the first after drawing a walk, then scored on Jevan Richert's sacrifice fly.
"After that first inning, we got that lead off of them right away and when you've got such a good defense behind you, that helps," Erickson said.
Two innings later, Scheffler was at it again and No. 2 hitter Sam Baier joined in. Scheffler eventually scored on an error and Richert bunted in Baier for the Tigers' 3-0 lead.
Scheffler said he could tell early on that he could be productive on the bases. He seemed to frustrate Rebels starter Tristan Knott every time he reached base.
"With him, after he tried to pick me off, I noticed he leaned," Scheffler said. "He started leaning toward home so I was able to get a good jump on him. We steal as a team and they know we're going to steal, so we're in their heads from the start."
Just for good measure, the Tigers added a couple more runs in the seventh when Scheffler and Baier both scored on back-to-back singles by Erickson and Branden Flock.
Knott took the loss. He went 6 1/3 innings and gave up three earned runs on eight hits.
As a team, the Tigers stole seven bases against the Rebels.
While Erickson limited the Rebels in the first game, Richert, a freshman, got the call to pitch the second game. He didn't disappoint, giving up eight hits as the Tigers held on late.
Richert could've been nervous making the start at the state tournament. But for some reason, big-game situations don't seem to bother him.
"Honestly, I don't get nervous," Richert said. "I hate saying that, but it was kind of a big game. It wasn't the state championship, ... but it was for bragging rights."
The Tigers gained the early advantage and scored two runs in the top of the third for the 2-0 lead.
Ely scored its first run in the fourth, but the Tigers and the Timberwolves traded runs in the seventh for the final 3-2 margin.
Holding the consolation trophy was a feeling the seven seniors will never forget.
"It's just an amazing feeling, we get to end our senior year on two wins, especially at the state tournament," said senior Nick Runck, who went 2-for-3 in his final high school game.
Richert went all seven innings and allowed one earned run on eight hits. He struck out two.
Max Gantt took the loss. He gave up seven hits and three runs, one of them earned.
Baier and Runck each had two hits for the Tigers. Scheffler, Baier and Jacob Vanderwerf each scored a run as well.
After a rough first game (an 8-2 loss to New Life Academy on Thursday), the Tigers' pitching responded on Friday.
"Unbelievable pitching," coach Bob Fink said. "It was two guys that just know how to pitch. They mixed it up and we played good defense behind them. The credit goes out to both Carter and Jevan."
Fink credited his seniors and gave a shout out to senior catcher Alex Portner, who played steady defense while Richert, the normal catcher, pitched.
"He hasn't caught in approximately a month," Fink said. "The job he did behind the plate catching was great. To get him into the game when he's been one of the leaders on this team."